This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6 -- Feast of the Theophany (Epiphany)

It is a good thing that it happens to be the Theophany, because some of today's saints might not inspire proper reverence.  Just for fun, let's start with them. 

Gertrude in Delft -- not so fat after all
Gertrude van Oosten:  It is not often that a saint is called imbecile and corpulent (unless the writer is the late Christopher Hitchens), and yet this fourteenth century beguine (sort of unvowed nun) grew so fat that she had to rest two or three times on her way to church.  She was a visionary and mystic; one of her mystical experiences was that she had a powerful craving for bread and cheese.  At the same time, a neighbor was prompted to leave bread and cheese at the common plate near the gate of the convent.  Gertrude sent one of her sisters to get the bread and cheese that she knew would be there; sure enough, the other beguine arrived at the plate just as the man was leaving the food.  She was blessed with five bleeding stigmata which bled seven times a day, but they attracted so many people that she prayed they would heal.  They did. 

In this, Gertrude is sort of like the village idiot in all the jokes.  To other saints, stigmata are blessings, but they were often hidden to prevent unwanted attention.  Gertrude naively revealed hers, and when the attention became too much, she prayed for healing.  So who's the imbecile: the person who loses the blessing of five open wounds or the person who treasures them secretly?  Yeah, that walks the line of sacrelige (or maybe jumps right over it) but then again, Jesus wasn't too keen to suffer all that abuse.  He said something about passing the cup, right?

St. John de Ribera -- looks like a nice guy
As uninspiring as Gertrude might be, she seems more likely to be canonized than John de Ribera, the Archbishop and Viceroy of Valencia.  (Who says a man cannot serve two masters?  Oh yeah, Jesus said that.  Matthew 6:24)  The Moors had been driven out of Spain by Ribera's time (1532-1611) but many Moriscos -- Christian descendents of Muslim invaders -- lived there.  By Spanish law, they were a semi-segregated minority, barred from holding civil office or priesthood.  These laws did not foster assimilation, which some Moriscos would not have wanted anyway.  Some even maintained their adherence to Islam secretly. 

John's first plan for dealing with them was rejected by King Philip III as too extreme.  He recommended seizing all the property of the Moriscos and sending them to slavery in the galleys, mines, and colonies.  He also recommended taking all children under 13 from them to be given to other families and raised properly Christian "for the good of their souls."  King Phil liked the idea of seizing property, but the slavery and kidnapping seemed excessive.  The good Archbishop had a back-up plan -- seize their property, kick them out of the country, and offer refuge to any kid under 13 who wants to stay.  Phil agreed; no kids took these guys up on their offer.  In 1609, the Moriscos, whom Archbishop John called "the sponges which sucked up all the wealth of the Christians," were expelled from Spain. 

As noted in the title, it is also the feast of the Theophany, the shining manifestation of Jesus as the Christ.  Three events are celebrated together on this day, though the Western tradition focuses on the Adoration of the Magi, since it makes a nice bracket for the Twelve Days of Christmas.  The other two were the Baptism of Jesus by John and the Wedding at Cana.  If you feel like you were suckered in by the heading, you can find the stories by following the links here. 
Adoration of the Magi
Baptism of Jesus
Wedding at Cana

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